Dr. Paul Leslie

Dr. Paul Leslie

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 10:23

Making Thinking Visible - Part 2

Documentation - Tell Show us what you are thinking

One of my biggest 'take-aways' from this round of teaching observations is the need to be explicit in the expectations of the lessons. One big difference between adult learners such as our students and younger students is that adult learners generally need to know just how the work is relevant to them. With younger learners, this is true as well and they always benefit from knowing the relevance of something, but the difference is that adults have control of their own destiny and so will either not do something if the relevance is not clear (for often very good reasons), or will edit and change it to suit their needs. Younger students, and especially primary students are a captive audience and will generally do as asked, even if the purposes are not clear. They don’t have the larger world view to consider when looking at their assignments.

One change that I am making is to demand of students even more documentation of their own activities than I have in the past. A big part of my portfolio approach is the need to document what we are learning. However, I can see from this past semester that we need to do even more, and provide time and opportunities for this activity.

Similar to the time span of discretion, most students do not see the need to do so until they have amassed a certain amount. Only when patterns emerge from the learning, that can 'float' above the actual content of the documents do students start to see the larger value of the documentation. Until this realization, they are too close to their own ideas. Reflection is not always a natural activity and there are better ways and worse ways, or more effective and less effective ways to do so.

time span short

This harnesses the cultural forces of artefacts and of expectations. I expect more artefacts from my student teachers. I cannot read their minds and I am not in their classrooms all the time so they need to make their thinking visible through artefacts, journals and details in all forms of documentation.

Documentation processes have been instrumental in allowing the students and us to see what everyone is thinking and they set benchmarks that allow us to see how we have moved forward. The documentation allows us to see not just their prior knowledge but their current thinking and gives a starting point. This allows us to then balance the time needed to set the stage for the content and then we can move forward with the activity as we are all clear on what each other is thinking and believing about our new content. We can then think critically about our own ideas because we can see them in the light of others’ ideas and see where we may have made assumptions or baseless claims.

Assessment & Opportunities

We really need to focus on the opportunities that we create for older students. In terms of seeing the relevance, the more clearly we can create opportunities for them to pursue activities that lead directly towards their own goals, the more successful will be the learning. Even with college students who we might think just need to complete their assignments, have a larger world view and need to see the assignments as contributing their actual lives, not just their academic lives.

We can negotiate with older students about many of the assessment details. In these cases, we then need to be explicit about what we need. For example, we need to tell them that we need a document in a certain form in order to show stakeholders that our students are meeting particular college outcomes, and that these expectations are beyond our control. Then they will be more accepting of an honest and real world view.

Modelling Thinking

In most educational settings, thinking is regularly modeled, but the models are not always appropriate. Opportunities for visible thinking are present anywhere, but we need to work to make the opportunities happen. There are always pockets of opportunity dependent on the teacher’s awareness, pedagogy and interest to think outside of the box and try new things. The challenges are to make opportunities with the framework and culture of the wider educational environment.

emirati boy classroom

Time is a consistent factor in any schedule. Staying around the college campus to talk and socially construct ideas takes time and there needs to be space for such activities to happen. We need to develop an awareness, understanding and acknowledgement of the culture of thinking. We need to focus on providing time and opportunities. For example, a reduction in the number of discrete assessments given to our students would allow a deeper understanding of each assessment. We would also be able to develop each assessment more thoroughly and thus provide a range of thinking models to allow for individual learning styles and needs, especially with older students. In this way, we can encourage people to take the time to think.

Thinking Routines

The thinking routines explored in the 'Making Thinking Visible' course allow us to embed thinking dispositions into our outcomes and provide a language to facilitate this activity. We can then move beyond the content and employ the content for various purposes. We now have a meta-language to use in our sandpit as we play with the ideas. This is a constructivist view in action that allows the students to think for themselves and feel empowered to actually do so. Their thoughts and views become more valuable because we can see them, share them and build upon them.


The routines are a leverage point for us to generate more critical thinking and extend their thinking beyond what we might normally do. The routines get them to go beyond just what is in their heads. We need to get the thinking out of their heads and on to paper so that others can see it – MTV!

artful competence 200

We can position the content at the center of the activities and it creates a way of thinking and focuses our attention in the places that we deem necessary. The thinking routines give us a critical thinking model that spans from early childhood learners to adult learners.

I think it will be productive to get into groups and have a few of you focus on each section. Remember, this is what we will be looking for in your portfolios. Due to time constraints, we will not have you present your portfolios this semester.

At this point in time, I will want to see your journal entries and your responses. These should all be ready to go. Who wants to show off her portfolio? One way to get a better idea of what you should put in your work is to see what other people put in their work. This might not be to make sure that you have the same thing, but to ensure that you have something different! As we discussed earlier in the semester, It Matters Who You Are.

One great point that arose from the Ramaqia Project was the idea of tailoring your work for your audience. This of course is not a new idea, but the teachers at Ramaqia were keenly aware that their work was going to be viewed by specific people and so they went to great efforts to help their audience find what they are looking for and to ensure that their audience found what the teachers wanted them to find.

content media audience

How does this help you? For the teachers, they found that not only could they target their work better for their audience, but by doing so, they could understand their own work better. This allowed them to better target their work for their audience - which allowed them to understand their own work better - which allowed them to ...




Have a look at some of the year four portfolios. They have come up with some ideas for presenting the competencies in a direct and clear manner. Your task is to be able to let other people come in and see what you think you want them to see. Ironically, I am showing them

Have a look at Ishmael and the idea of the non-reflexive 'I'. Basically, she is saying that what people see when they look at us, or in this case, look at our work, is not what we think they see. The problem then is to try and reconcile the two visions of 'you' as closely as possible.

cat lion



Watch the 'Dove' video below and tell us what you think. Yes, it may be a bit overly dramatic for this topic, but the point is clear. People see us differently than we see ourselves. Different from the video, many people often see themselves as the cat does, not as the people in the video do.


Don't forget to check on the 'Mahara - How To ...' link to check on various features. The discussion about Mayer's multimedia principles is also very valuable at this point.

Design a Syllabus

The beauty of this assessment is that you have already done the 'heavy lifting'. Now what you need to do, is very solidly in the cognitive domain. You will need to sort out your work and create a coherent plan of what you did.

In the best of all worlds, you would do this before you go out on your teaching placement. However, we also know that in many cases, there is not enough time to thoroughly prepare for your placement, and that many of the finer details are left until the last minute.

In this case, you have the remains of your teaching practice. Now, you will have a chance to do some retrospection and reflection and write up what you wanted to do, even if this is somewhat different from what you actually did.


al kawthar themes



Design a Syllabus: Have a look at the actual assessment.




You will create a syllabus that is suitable for the level at which you are teaching. You will:

  • Choose a curriculum and level.
    • The curriculum is based on the subject that you are teaching.
      • For example,
        • you may be teaching English classes to KG 2.
        • You may be teaching Math for Grade 4.
    • The curriculum will depend on the emirate in which you are teaching.
    • Ideally, you will discuss the curriculum and level with your MST in order to get the most recent and applicable curriculum documentation and resources.
    • Much of this section will be given to you. The importance of this section is in your choice of curriculum.
  • Identify the scope and sequence of your syllabus for one year (what you will cover and in what order).
    • Present a general overview of the year. (See picture of Al Kawthar School https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulleslie/15010641913/ )
    • Select concept(s) that cover a month
      • You may choose to focus on the month you are working on during your current TP.
      • If you can determine what you will be doing next semester, this is a chance to get ahead.
    • Plan integrated syllabus for the month.
    • Design lesson plans including assessments for one week to demonstrate learning.
      • You will need to ensure that lesson goals / outcomes are mapped to assessments. Assessments do not need to include tests.
      • You will need to show how lessons have the capacity to accommodate different learners
      • The lesson plan format will be dependent on your level, program, and MCT / MST / personal preferences.
  • Identify opportunities in your syllabus for external involvement.
    • E.g. how can a special event be incorporated into the syllabus


You should include:

  • Formal assignment cover page
  • A preamble that discusses
    • The curriculum – where it came from and how it has been adapted for your context.
    • Why you chose this particular curriculum and focus
    • Adaptability to external influences.
  • Syllabus
    • This may be mainly in tabular form.
  • Lesson plans
    • Must be clearly linked to larger syllabus and sequenced.
    • Assessments must be clearly mapped.
  • Resource list with references





  • I do not have a model
  • I am very excited to see what you produce
  • You may use your existing lesson plans
  • I do want to see a coherent plan and overview
  • You have already done all of this!
  • June 2nd.
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 23:42

EPC 3903 -Week 12 - Demonstrating Competency

Demonstrating Competency

AS noted, once you are not in your classroom anymore, what do we know about what you did? I am demanding of students much more documentation of their own activities.

This harnesses the cultural forces of artefacts and of expectations. I expect more artefacts from my student teachers. I cannot read your minds and I am not in your classrooms all the time so you need to make your thinking visible through artefacts, journals and details in all forms of documentation.

ed processes trans



Click here to share your ideas

Here are some of my ideas:

Table 3:

Curated Artefacts



Professionalism and Understanding

Certificates of Workshop attendance

Anecdotes from colleagues

Images of professional treatment of guests

Curated collection of work clearly related to competencies

Planning for learning

Lesson plans

Photos of arranged / organized classrooms

Anecdotes from repairing / rearranging classrooms & equipment

Implementing and Managing Learning

Videos / images from the classroom

Observations from colleagues, MST, MCT, principal

Feedback from surveys, student reactions

Assessment and Evaluation

Products from student activities

Test scores and graphs

Anecdotes from students on what they learned


Journal entries

Daily reflective entries

Curated collection of work

Lets remind ourselves about the two projects ahead of you in 3503. 

LMS Management


You will complete the design of your CMS which includes the following features.

  • The actual site and templates (Desktop, Mobile & Tablet)
    • You must download and install new templates for each of the three screen sizes. We will see how to do this, but you can check here.
  • Titles, categories and course names
    • You should have your practicum courses set up in proper categories and you should have at least one other category for your extra learning objects.
      • Learning objects from semester 1 - these should be edited and 'fixed up' as much as you can.
    • Everything should be labeled and organized for easy access. Imagine that a grade 4 student is looking at it.
  • New learning object (using the Lesson Tool)
    • This is evaluated on its own and we will discuss it further down below. However, your ability to place it properly will be considered in this assignment
  • Book tool
    • We will examine how to use this tool. It requires some small html work and an idea of how to organize your work. We will examine the content and see what you will out in your book.
  • Users
    • Users will be based on your
      • gradebook - you will need to show some users who have completed different assessments. You may need to manufacture some data.
      • user profiles - You will need to show a course profile in which you can demonstrate that a course has more than one teacher and students. 
  • Variety of collaborative tools including wikis, discussion boards, 
    • Most of these will be included in your learning objects. If you have incomplete learning objects, I will want to know why. Better yet, why don't you make them complete by adding these various tools. 

Learning Object Assessment Document


Definition of Learning Object

A learning object is defined as a collection of media (text, video, images) that provides content on a particular topic, supported by activities or instructions on how to interact with it.

It also contains a quantifiable assessment that can be registered in a grade book.


Overview of assignment

You will determine as closely as possible a suitable topic for your placement and then design and construct a learning object using native Moodle features.

Your learning object should be related to the imported learning objects from semester 1.


The LO will contain:

  • A statement on the purpose and audience for the LO.
  • A map of the learning object.
  • Multimedia content including text, video, imagery and audio.
  • Interactions that can be tracked and provide feedback
  • Assessment in the form of an assignment dropbox that produces a grade for a grade book.
  • Registered participants from the placement
  • The activities and assessment in your resource should require 1 hour to complete.

You will not be graded on your ability to get participants to actually use the learning object.

I believe that you are perfectly capable of managing this on your own. We will work on this in class, but I expect you to do most of the hard work. I will expect that you:

  • Have detailed and explicit directions that a grade 4 student can understand
  • 'Quality' assessments that use good questions and clear directions
    • Quizzes with great questions - you can 'borrow' questions from other sources.
    • Assignments with rubrics and models.
    • Discussion boards with clear questions that your students can answer.
  • Comprehension checks that are real comprehension checks and not just links that pop us back to the top again.

Moodle Pedagogy

We will also spend a bit of time to review some of the underlying concepts of Moodle and try to get a good understanding of WHY we use Moodle. Think about what you might tell a principal when she asks you why Moodle, or any LMS, is a useful tool.

Research Questions

Before we get stuck into your research questions, I thought it would be great to review a process that I used with students two years ago.

Note the interactional process of working with the institution to help guide your questions. One of the 'secrets' to good research, is that is can answer more than one need. Similar to creating professional development goals, the research should answer your own questions yet also meet a need of the institution. Otherwise, you will find little support beyond the initial 'sounds great' response.

Lets review one of my own research question workshops.



Lets now look at your research question justification presentation.

From the task description:

You are required to present your observations and data collected during the teaching placement. Your presentation will include:

  • Discussion of teaching placement
    • You do need to include of course the name of the school and so forth, but what we really want to know is what factors do you think are important or relevant to your research. What factors led you to determine your research, what factors will help or promote your research and what might impact or impede your research.
  • Discussion of data collection methods and tools
    • Observations, interviews, transcripts and any other tools that you deem appropriate.
    • Rationale
    • This section needs to relate your research methods to your location. Leading from from the previous section, you can smoothly transition into a discussion of how the environment of school will support certain types of research and data collection methods you plan to use.
  • Presentation of data collected
    • Samples of raw data
    • You need to have some form of data, even if it is your own observations, to show how you have refined your research question.
  • Possible interpretations
    • Possible methods for analysis
    • Based on your observations or other data, what does it mean? What further questions does it pose for you?
  • Related reading
    • Literature review including at least two articles, one of which must be based on peer-reviewed research.
    • Discussion of how you will undertake your action research in semester two.
    • Try to find a couple articles that discuss similar types of research and then see how these mthods and research tools (questions, surveys, plans and activities etc) could be used by you in your own research.
  • Reflection:
    • Devise your research question(s).
    • It is perfectly acceptable to also show how your research question(s) have been refined by your experience.
    • Reflect on your research and why you believe it to be important to your own development as a teacher.


Since you will still be out next week, we should take a few minutes to review your 4103 / 4203 presentation as well. Click for Schedule

Part 3: Analysis

Analyze your syllabus and discuss the factors that impeded, promoted or otherwise influenced your ability to deliver it according to your original plans.

  • Indicate where your syllabus came from and how much input you had into its development
  • Discuss what kinds of flexibility was built into the syllabus
  • Provide a historical perspective on your previous TP experiences and highlight:
    • Factors that contributed to the implementation of prior syllabuses
    • significant and consistent barriers
  • Provide evidence of issues and factors that had an impact on your current placement and what you did to adapt your syllabus.

Look at the whole assessment document.



One of the key tenets of Making Thinking Visible and of the portfolio approach is that in both, you must attempt to make visible in some manner or other your thinking. How and why are very big topics of conversation which we may have covered, but will also continue to examine.

Lets have a look at the video below first, and see if we can come up with any answers to why or how.



Why make thinking visible



Then we will examine some of your visible thinking.

mahara swc
Any volunteers? 



Once we feel we have discussed the purpose and point of making your thinking visible, lets have a look at the main parts of your lessons.

  • Lesson Objectives
    • How clear are the objectives? Are they SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely)?
  • Activities
    • How clear are the activities?
    • Are there opportunities for meeting the outcomes?
  • Assessment
    • Are there clear links or mapping from the outcomes to the opportunities to the assessments?
    • Give specific examples.
      • A great example of this...

outcome activity opportunity

    • Consolidation, review and extension
      • Another example

extend diff 1



Do your artefacts make your thinking visible? 

Click here for an MLU preview

 Click for a pre-preview

Thursday, 16 April 2015 03:40

Transforming Questions

Research Questions and your Action Plan

Upon your return, you will need to justify your action plan and present your reasons to us. Today, we will start to examine the research questions you wrote before your TP started. We want to see if they are still valid.

Please keep in mind that they will change again and again, but at some point you do need to actually have some questions as a focus for future actions.

  • Bring out your questions and read them with your school partners. Write (copy) them to this document. We will then be able to review them together.
  • We will then do a SWOT analysis of them. You can perform this analysis with your school team on each question individually.
    • S - strengths
    • W - weaknesses
    • O - Opportunities
    • T - Transformation

Under your question, try to come up with a short list of answers for each part of the analysis. The final section - the T - will be how you might need to transform your questions based on your experience at the schools in order to make them more achievable.

Once (or IF) you have rewritten, or transformed your questions, you can put the new question on the document under the old one. It is good practice to keep previous versions of your work in order to see how you have developed or transformed. We tend to think that change is good, but sometimes...


Wednesday, 25 March 2015 13:09

Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible

As I have mentioned to many of you, Dr. Rozz, Ms Julie and I are taking a course from the Harvard Graduate School of Education called "Making Thinking Visible". I was intrigued by the title of this course because it relates so closely to my own studies and work on portfolios. You can see our work in progress in the 'Files' section of the menu.

We are discovering some great revelations about teaching and learning that perhaps we knew before, but in an intuitive way, not in an explicit manner. Now, we are learning how to make thinking visible in a more structured and efficient manner. One thing that has become clear from our studies is that the use of clear, structured routines and documentation forces students to specify, sequence, separate and detail their ideas: to make meaning of their ideas. The documentation provides the opportunity to make meaning.

We have been discussing the question, “How does seeing the idea influence the understanding of the idea?” Getting ideas out on paper makes them real and makes them easier to understand. The ideas are then exposed and we are forced to take greater ownership of specific ideas rather than vague or general ideas that can be easily tweaked. Reflection becomes more public and open to scrutiny. It makes thinking open.

As Freire (1998) notes, we must create for our students and colleagues “the possibilities for the production and construction of knowledge" (p. 30). A significant aspect of the portfolio as community tool is that it facilitates the exploration of each others’ work and ideas through community access to each other’s work. Such curiosity does have limits with regards to the privacy of others, but by placing our work in the realm of the community we are actively giving permission to others to view our work - with the expectation that the community treats this work with respect. As practitioners and educators, we must acknowledge, as Freire (1998) tells us, that the cornerstone of Education is human curiosity. It is this human curiosity, within its proper bounds of privacy and respect that can lead to the epistemological curiosity that marks the liberated student.

Demonstrating Processes through Products

process product portfolio

We have been examining the idea of demonstrations of competency through performance. Documentation can come is many different forms. The issue with teaching, and many other professions is that we ‘do’ things as opposed to ‘make’ things. Of course we make handouts and lesson plans and endless documentation, but the point of our work is to teach and do. These are processes. It can be very difficult to represent processes with products.

However, if we change our language and ideas and use processes but make them visible we may be able to achieve what we currently think is impossible – turn processes into visible performances. For example in a recent lesson the thinking was captured in a mind map on the class white board in which all ideas were the students. The documentation to show performance at any time is our remaining challenge particularly in higher education when students submit an “assessment” which is the final product or performance.

Documentation and Portfolios

Have a look at this article: Putting Understanding Up Front. Once question that is raised asks, 'what is the difference between understanding and knowing?" How does this difference become manifest through 'performance'?

paul kids crayon

The article comments that,

"To learn for understanding, students need criteria, feedback, and opportunities for reflection from the beginning of and throughout any sequence of instruction." (p. 5)

How can you create opportunities for your students, rather than just activities?


iPads on Wheels

Speaking of opportunities, have a look at the iPads on Wheels document and we will discuss how we can make this opportunity happen.


Perkins, David and Tina Blythe. “Putting Understanding Up Front. Educational Leadership. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Used with permission.

Friere, P. (1998). Pedogogy of Freedom. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

Saturday, 21 March 2015 05:07

Teaching Practicum - General Feedback

Teaching Practice Observations - General feedback

teaching for learning
Teaching Competencies and Practicum


I am observing students from three different cohorts this semester and so you may notice that the schedule is very tight. For you, this means you must pay very close attention to the calendar to ensure that you are prepared. You need to look ahead to all of your observation dates as much as you can to see if there are going to be any interruptions. 

Check the schedule to see when you are supposed to be observed and then check with the school. If you miss your observation or it is canceled for any reason, your grade will be averaged over the other observations you have received. This sounds great, but this also means you receive less feedback and therefore you other tasks will be less informed and so... You can see the knock on effect of missing the planned assessment events.

You can add the calendar to your own calendar on your mobile device and I encourage you to do so so you can see the progress on your classmates as well. This is important if you need to reschedule.


I draw your attention to the chart I drew on the board a few weeks ago.

ed processes trans    
ed processes port approach trans

I want you to think about how you can capture your processes through the use of products. That is, how can you capture your performance in the classroom through documentation. 

Do not forget about your journal entries as well. These should be clearly based on feedback from your MCT.


Planning for Learning

When you create lesson plans, it forces you to go through the motions of working out what you will do in the classroom. It is not simply an artefact for you to give to us. It is not simply something that we need in order to know what you are doing. I can watch you and see what you are doing.

It is an attempt for you to make your own thinking about your plan visible. By doing this, you will be able to better see what it is you hope to achieve. Writing your plan and considering all the issues helps to visualize what you are doing and then helps you to think through all the associated issues and requirements.

Consider how many students you have and how many different ideas they may have. Think about how you will encourage those ideas and then think about what you might need to encourage them.

Implementation of Learning

Classroom management, as you know, starts with good planning. Once you have made clear plans, you are much better able to manage your class and adapt to new and changing situations. If you are trying to think of what to do next and manage your students, you are going to have trouble. If you know very well where you want your class to go, it is much easier to focus on managing the behaviour of your students.

Also, the clearer you are on your plans, the clearer the students will be. If your students do not know what you want them to do, they will do what they want to do. If you want them to do different things as is often the case, you will need to be even more clear for yourself as you will have different sets of instructions.

paul primary students
Managing the classroom


You need to consider what you are capturing for your portfolio as well. As you know, I advocate that we use our portfolios as teaching tools and not just leave it as yet another artefact to be compiled frantically at the end of the practicum. The following diagram shows the process and perhaps the difficulties posed by the showcase portfolio.

process product portfolio
Active process VS Static Product


The only reward your students need is the satisfaction of a job well done. A great reward system involves giving students opportunities to learn. When students learn something new, they will be rewarded by the feeling of success. Helping students feel proud of their accomplishments is the best reward. Save your chocolates for me.

emirati boy classroom
Intrinsic motivation from within

Differentiation and extension

Differentiation means giving students the chance to explore a topic through different means. Sometimes differentiation may mean giving an easier task to one student and a more difficult task to another, but only sometimes. Other times, differentiation means giving them a different way to explore the topic.

Extension means to challenge your students to go beyond the initial task and see what else they can discover that is of great, or greater interest to them. These two concepts overlap and so are often confused with each other.

Let all of your students have these opportunities. Student abilities and interests change daily and according to a wide variety of factors. Resist the temptation to label your students and question your MSTs if and when they tell you that a student is high ability or low.

Assessment for, of and after learning

Assessment is often confused with testing. The two clearly overlap, but the best assessment is actually formative. This allows you to let the student know how they are doing and provide guidance for the student, and for you to help the student further. Do this often.

Summative assessment, or testing, also can be used for feedback, but is often used for evaluation where we place a value on the results of a test. Remember, most if not all test are highly arbitrary. So, the evaluations are even more so. Do not rely on these forms for your feedback.

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